Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Barefoot/ minimalist - a new beginning

My first 'real' running shoes
Initially I picked up a pair of cheap running shoes from Walmart for $15-20, which, of course ended up being really crap, really fast. I currently run in a pair of Saucony ProGrid Guide 3 running shoes. These were chosen way back when I started running because they were the right price and I'm a frugal Scotsman and I thought that's what running shoes were supposed to look like. Having looked at reviews after the fact, I guess I didn't make too bad a choice, considering how little I knew about running.  I've had them since June 2011 and have run & walked approximately 720 miles in them and now the sole is almost devoid of tread and it is time for them to either retire, or, with the addition of ice spikes, at least become winter running shoes (more of that in future blog postings, hopefully).

My mentor, Stuart, mentioned the whole minimalist thing to me right when I first started running, although back then I had no idea what all the fuss was about. I eventually picked up a book that he mentioned, called Born To Run by Christopher McDougall which stresses the benefits of barefoot/ minimalist running, which really convinced me that this was something that I needed to do, sooner rather than later. I subsequently picked up another book by a hard core, barefoot running evangelist, called Barefoot Running: Step by Step by Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton. Barefoot Ken Bob believes that barefoot is the only way to go, in everything you do, which is a little bit much for me, but we'll see what happens.

What's the big deal?

Proponents of barefoot/ minimalist cite many reports that would seem to imply that the current design of shoe is a major cause of many of the back and leg problems that people report while running. If you look at the construction of the foot and the mass of nerve endings and muscles that it contains, it is really quite amazing. Then the amazing thing is that we then cram all that stuff into a artificial holder and hope for the best. To compare, can you imagine wearing a pair of ski gloves all the time and trying to function day to day like that. Evangelists also point to the horrible, large, clunky heel design of these and how they actually force you to run in an unhealthy manner, i.e. landing heel first. If you look at the many peoples around the world that do not spend their entire life in shoes and how they walk and run, they tend to land on their midfoot or on the ball of their foot. For a little more detail, checkout Wikipedia or the many other barefoot/ minimalist running resources on the web.

It is quite a controversial topic in the fitness world, as there are many bigots both ways.

Now what?

My new, bizarre & comfy shoes
'The kids', got me a pair of Vibram Bikila running shoes for my Christmas, thanks Bren :-), just what I wanted. As you can see, they are very different from your standard running shoe, or pretty much any other shoe, to be honest. It is now a couple weeks after Christmas and I haven't actually ran in them yet as I know I will injure myself. The trick with transitioning to minimalist/ barefoot running is to do it properly and gradually as it is very different to how I run now.


Planning a good transition is key to doing it right and not buggering up my legs all together. I will be trying to follow the training plan from the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) education & resources website at I will also be doing 100 up challenge, which I originally came across in Christopher McDougall's blog posting about the Natural Running Store.

I have been thinking about this for a while and decided that the winter might be the best time to start for a couple of reasons. My chances for running outside are going be dramatically reduced, but I have found a local high school that has an indoor walking/ running track which I hope to take advantage of during the winter in order to work on my gait. The nice, short track, will be key for transitioning as not overdoing it at the start is very important.

No comments:

Post a Comment